Scourge Forty-Seven – Luncheon
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Stray Cat Strut (A cyberpunk system apocalypse!) - Ongoing
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Scourge Forty-Seven - Luncheon

I stretch as best I can, because sleeping on the ground--even if Felix insisted last night that we find a spot where the dirt isn’t too hard--is really uncomfortable.

I’m not the only one waking up. Esme’s rubbing at her face and Felix is rummaging around our bags for things to start breakfast with.

Bianca’s the only one here that’s a morning person. She took two minutes to wake up, and since then she’s been perfectly fine. It’s a little maddening, actually, but I can’t fault her too much for that.

“So, what’s the plan this morning?” I asked.

“Same, same as...” Esme pauses to stifle a yawn. “Same as last night. We have two directions we can go in. I’ll check the compass again for any changes, but unless the books moved overnight, then we should be heading in roughly the same direction.”

“South and east then,” I say.

I leave the tent to take care of a few things, then return to camp to find Felix warming us some food while Bianca provides a constant stream of fire for her. Esme leaves the tent, changed out from her night things to her usual outfit, so I take the opportunity to get changed too.

“Is everyone ready to go?” I ask as I step out.

“No,” Felix says. “Food’s not ready yet, we have a bunch of things to pack up, and the tent’s still up. Are we in a hurry?”

“No, not quite,” I say. “I’m just feeling a little antsy. I don’t know, I have the impression that we should be doing something.”

Esme hums. “Well, if we catch up with the book thieves, we’ll have plenty of things to do. I can’t wait to get those books back.”

“I’m more curious about what’s going on in Algecante,” Bianca says.

“It’s everything, I think,” I say. “Everything’s been pointing to Algecante and Altum doing something nasty, and I want to get to the bottom of it.”

I sit down next to Esme while Felix finishes up breakfast, then I eat in a hurry. The others are doing the same, and I think maybe some of my nervous energy is leaking out because we pack up and are ready to go in record time.

The love birds are waiting for us, still loaded up with the things we didn’t feel like unpacking the night before. Bianca and I hop onto one, and Felix and Esme onto the other, then we take off. I’m not sure how long of a flight we have ahead of us, but I’m hoping it goes smoothly.

The weather today’s not as nice as yesterday. There’s a thick layer of clouds above, hanging low enough that we’re skimming along the bottom of the fattest ones as we fly.

“We should find a place to stop,” Esme says after about an hour’s flight.

I nod, then glance down and start looking for a nice area. There’s a lot of small hills here. We’re about to cross a wide road heading from north to south. The main road to Algecante, I think. I point towards a clearing past some hills next to the road, and our birds coast down and into the clearing.

Esme pulls out her book compass machine, puts in one of the tags, and cranks it after focusing for a bit. She pushes a map against Felix’s back while Felix stays still, then she glances between the compass and the map. “I think we’re close,” she says.

“How close?” I ask.

“Very,” she says. “Maybe... twenty minutes of flying... that way.” She points and it’s almost exactly the same direction the road is leading towards.

“Let’s circle around then. If we keep high no one will see us. It’ll be harder to spot anyone if there’s just a small group, but we’ll see any bigger groups, at least.”

I get agreements all around, so I pat my bird-monster on the neck and relay some instructions, and we’re off again.

This time we circle around towards the spot Esme pointed to, flying so high that we occasionally push through one of the clouds. It’s really cold up here, and the air’s a bit thin, but it’s not so bad that we can’t manage.

“Look!” Bianca says. She’s pointing down, and I follow her finger, spotting what caught her eye.

There’s a camp down here. A decently big one too. Maybe twenty round tents, and two bigger ones. A wall surrounds the entire camp. I can’t tell what it’s made of from up here, but it looks like a temporary thing. I see horses too, and lots of tiny moving shapes that have to be people.

“That symbol, on the tents!” Esme says. “Those are Templars.”

I frown. These are the Templars we’ve been hearing about. I start searching for a spot to land again, this one further south from the Templars and their camp. I notice first one, then a second tent being struck down. They’re not going to stay in place forever. Probably for the best, since they’re camped right on the roadway.

We circle down to another clearing, this one a bit further away from the roadside. “Wanna bet they have Semper’s book?” Felix asks.

“We don’t know that yet,” Esme says, but she’s quick to pull out the compass, place a tag in, and start working the machine. The compass whirls around a couple of times, then points north. “Okay, so we do know that.”

“Right, the Templars have the book, which means... uh, I can think of a few things it could mean, and most aren’t great,” I say. “Either they’re working with Altum and the book was given to them, they were the ones to steal it and are framing Altum, or... maybe they took it from one of Altum’s followers?”

“I’m hoping it’s the last one,” Esme says. “Heroes’ Templars aren’t exactly buddy-buddy with the Archivists, but we’re not enemies either. They often go out to clear monsters around some small towns, or leave on big quests. The smart ones will gather information before heading out, so they need the Archivists to help them.”

Bianca slips off the back of the bird, then brushes down her skirts. “We’re not going to learn what’s going on by staying here. So what do we do?”

“I could create some spy monsters, have them check on the camp. It’ll be tricky though,” I say. “They’re not very smart. And they wouldn’t be able to recognize the right book from any other book. We could get a good count of the number of people.”

“Just the number of people?” Felix asks.

“Yeah. Is that bad?” I ask.

“Bet that a good number of the people over there aren’t Templars. They have horses and tents and things. So they’ll have normal folk helping them. Cooks and animal handlers and that kind of thing.”

Esme nods. “Templars often go out with a retinue. A group that big probably only has a dozen Templars and twice that many acolytes, then the people like Felix said, cooks and aide-de-camps.”

“So no spying, then,” I say. “Do we walk over and just ask? I feel like Mom might want to spank me if I do that.”

“I can go,” Bianca says. “I’m a noble lady of this country. They’re technically part of an outside organisation. I have some political pull, though not much.”

“I’m not sending you out there alone,” I say. “Nah, give me an hour or two.”

Felix grins. “Looking for a pool?”

I nod. “Exactly. Mom always says that there’s no better position to negotiate than when you have overwhelming force on your side. So let’s get some forces and make them overwhelming.” I send out a few of my last little friends out to find a dark pool. I also ask them to start looking for any stray monsters in the area.

Felix laughs. “Oh, this is going to be fun.”

“How are we going to negotiate though? I don’t want to be next to some Templars when they learn we have an army of monsters with us. They can be fast, and they’re strong,” Esme says.

I shrug. “We’ll send them a letter or something.”

“A letter,” Esme repeats.

“Yeah. With a monster.”

She blinks a few times, thinks about it, then starts to rummage through her pack for paper and something to write with. “Okay, but let me compose this. Maybe it’ll soften the blow a little if the letter comes from an Archivist.”

“We should invite them for lunch, if we want to make them relax,” Felix says.

That... sounds like a perfect plan. “Felix, you’re a genius.”

“I know,” Felix says with a winning smile.

“We’re going to invite some Templars for lunch while also building an army of monsters right next to them so that they won't’ feel threatened while we ask about the suspicious things they’ve been doing?” Bianca asks.

“That’s exactly right.”


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A perfect plan! Genius, even!

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-Dead Tired
-Heart of Dorkness
Voting makes Broccoli smile!

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